Ivory Coast main political party says it finishes boycott of transitional government

President Laurent Gbagbo's ruling party said Monday it will rejoin civil-war-divided Ivory Coast's transitional government but warned that last week's anti-U.N. riots were one battle in a larger struggle to reunify the country.

Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front party boycotted the government amid four days of deadly street protests after a recommendation by a U.N.-backed mediation group that parliament's expired mandate not be renewed. The parliament, stacked with ruling party lawmakers, was viewed as a last power base for Gbagbo, whose powers are diminished in the new transitional government.

The party said Monday it would return its ministers to the Cabinet, but said it would continue to work toward national reunification after a 2002-2003 civil war that left the west African nation divided, with rebels still armed and holding the north despite peace deals undermined by all sides.

"This victory was but one step on the long road of future battles," said Affi N'Guessan, the party's president. "What we're waiting for is disarmament, national reunification and free and transparent elections."

Four Ivorians died in the riots when U.N. peacekeepers fired on attackers besieging their base in western Ivory Coast. The protests that ended Friday in the main city of Abidjan saw pro-government youths hurling stones and fire bombs at U.N. headquarters here. The United Nations, which together with France has 10,000 peacekeepers in country, backed an emergency one-year extension of Gbagbo's mandate after elections scheduled for October failed to take place.

The transitional government including rebel ministers, led by Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny, is to arrange elections before October 2006. As part of the compromise, Gbagbo's powers are diminished and his party lost control of the crucial defense and finance ministries.

Gbagbo-allied youth leaders sent their followers into the streets before calling them home late Thursday. Ivorians largely viewed the riots as a show of force by Gbagbo's allies, determined not to be sidelined, reports the AP.


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